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Ten ways to work greener

Whether you freelance from home or commute to an office every day, you can make a big environmental impact with some simple changes. Here are ten easy ways to help you work greener every day
1. Green light it

Turn lights off in offices when not in use and think about using sensors to help keep illumination to a ‘need-to-light’ basis. For a quick win, replace standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs wherever possible, which use around 75 per cent less energy. If you can, painting office walls in light paint colours and higher gloss sheens will help reflect natural daylight, reducing the need for overhead lighting and offering energy savings, as well as having a positive effect on health and wellbeing.

2. Swap business trips for online meetings

If the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated one positive thing it was that the majority of business trips could be easily replaced with a video call. So green up your work by eschewing carbon-polluting flights unless absolutely necessary in favour of a digital meeting. Not only will it save you having to try to carbon offset the environmental damage caused by even a single flight, but it will also save you money too.

3. Turn off your tech

Office equipment accounts for around 15 percent of all the electricity used in UK offices, so being energy savvy with your tech is one of the most effective ways to green up. Only use energy when you need it: make sure computer monitors are switched off when you’re away from your desk for more than ten minutes, and at the end of the day. Printers and photocopiers too guzzle electricity and should be turned off when you leave the office…a plug-in timer can be an easy way to ensure this.

4. Go paperless

The paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy in the world and worldwide the use of paper has risen 400 per cent in the past 40 years. As such paper use can have significant impact on a company’s carbon footprint – both from tree resources, but also the fossil fuel power used for printing – to produce one ton of paper takes 253 gallons of petrol. Fortunately, the ‘paperless office’ has gained popularity in the digital age and there are plenty of ways to streamline services online. These include swapping to digital signature services, using electronic invoicing and interactive document editing such as Google Docs or Microsoft 365 and storing large documents on platforms such as Dropbox.

5. If you have to print…

If you have to print, then setting printers to print on both sides of paper as a default will help to cut down on paper waste and paper costs by up to 50 per cent. Traditional inks often emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which can be both a health hazard and a pollutant to the ozone so look into eco-friendly inks too. These include UV inks that don’t contain solvent, soy-based inks made from soybeans and eco-solvent ink, a non-water based ink made from ether extracts taken from refined mineral oil and also known as soft or mild ink.

6. Get a desk plant…or two

Filling your office with greenery is not only aesthetically pleasing but can have a positive effect on the quality of the air. Certain indoor plants are particularly good at absorbing airborne pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and trichloroethylene and giving out oxygen in return. These include peace lilies, spider plants and Chinese evergreens and they’re all low maintenance for the less-than-green fingered office gardener.

7. Go green on your commute

If you work from home you’ve got the greenest commute around, but even if you work outside the house you can still effectively lower your emissions by walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transport to work. Companies can support this by offering incentives for green travel including setting up a bike rack for employees and perhaps even providing a company bike that can be used by employees at lunch time. Looking into a few days working from home if your company allows can also help to reduce your carbon footprint.

8. Recycle what you can

Setting up clear recycling bins will help to divert many materials commonly used in the workplace out of landfill. Paper is the easiest place to start: make sure there are containers throughout your office so there are no excuses for putting paper in the bin instead. Cardboard, food and plastics can also have their own bins but make sure there is proper signage for each waste. Staple samples of items or pictures to the boxes to show what should go where – the added visual element will help people to sort things properly without having to think too much.

9. Use reusable cups and utensils

Single use bad, multi-use good. This should be the motto of every office kitchen. And if your company hasn’t yet replaced disposable cups with mugs and plastic cutlery in favour of real knives and forks then this is something to highlight to your line manager. Bring your own cups and cutlery in the meantime to avoid waste. Planning ahead and packing a lunch in reusable containers will also trump plastic bags or impulse-bought pre-packed lunches at the supermarket. Don’t forget to wash your homemade lunch down with water from a re-useable bottle to reduce plastic bottle waste.

10. Know your output

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure”, so the saying goes, so set a baseline for your water, energy and waste usage in the office to help track the effectiveness of your sustainability initiatives.

If you work from home then look at investing in measures like insulation, double glazing, low energy bulbs and recycled paper to reduce energy consumption and make goals to reduce energy and waste that are measurable. In an office encourage colleagues to create a ‘green team’ for your office to get involved with and shape environmental initiatives at work, from incentives to practical steps.

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